Palmyra officials work to solve sewer plant issues

Officials discovered the ecosystem inside of Palmyra’s sewer plant was jeopardized when months of an odor hinted at an issue.

Officials discovered the ecosystem inside of Palmyra’s sewer plant was jeopardized when months of an odor hinted at an issue.

Palmyra’s sewer plant, which typically pumps 500,000 gallons of direct discharge from residents and commercial properties a day, recently has been pumping 800,000 gallons per day due to heavy rain. This increase has been the cause for ongoing issues at the plant, one of which is diluting the “good” microbes the plant needs to break down sewage, according to Borough Administrator John Gural.

Gural said that several weeks ago, a “strong” and “unusual” odor alerted sewer operators of another potential issue.

In response to the smell, the “sludge” from the sewage was sent to be tested, and the results indicated another problem.

Under the microscope, no “live microbes” were seen at all, according to Gural.

It is suspected an illegal discharge of chemical materials found its way through the plant, and killed the “good” microbes necessary for the breakdown of waste.

To expedite the issue, sludge from the borough of Riverton was added in Palmyra to encourage microbe growth. According to Gural, it has been working.

“It is working and microbial activity is increasing,’’ Gural said. “We think within days the problem will be resolved.”

According to a release by the borough, additional testing has determined the discharged material has now passed through the plant and some microbial activity has been restored.

The borough is in the process of investigating.

Gural explained this is not the first time that illegal discharge of chemical waste has occurred in Palmyra. More than a decade ago, the illegal discharge of a chemical, hexavalent chromium, from a company caused similar issues within the sewer plant. The borough sued the company and settled. The company agreed to pay the borough $3 million.

Five years ago, the borough completed a $4 million upgrade to the sewer plant, according to Gural. The “latest technology” was installed, ultimately extending the life expectancy of plant by 50 years.

According to a statement by the borough, an apology was issued and the situation was “unfortunate.” The borough “appreciates” the community’s patience during this process.

Public Works and Sewer Superintendent John Haines said that despite the difficult times recently, borough officials are working diligently to correct the issue.

For any questions or concerns relating to sewage, residents can call (856) 829–1476 or, for emergencies, (856) 829–0191.